Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Presidents' Day Grace?

Yesterday was Presidents' Day, a day to honor the birthdays of presidents long gone by doing nothing spectacular except for maybe hitting a few sales and definitely waffling over what to do with the extra kids that are home from school for the day.  Am I right?

So, yesterday Little Lou was home from school all day and I didn't babysit.  It was a gloriously perfect day with all 3 kids, where they slept in until 9 and we lounged around all morning, then we played outside in the beautiful sunshine all afternoon and had a picnic dinner.

In my dreams.

In reality, it was a remarkably normal day, where we were all awake by 6:30, I fed and dressed 3 kids, made a grocery list, went to the grocery (3 kids is way harder than 2 at the grocery!), served lunch, and put Stinky down for a nap.

See, the thing about national holidays is that mommies don't get holidays.  Mommies get to work overtime...or a double...or something...on national holidays.  Our workload multiplies.  Sometimes it's easy, sometimes it's not.  It's the job we signed up for, though, so we do it regardless.

Yesterday was Presidents' Day and I had the grand pleasure of toting 3 kids to the grocery store.  Those fancy carts with the bench in the back where Little Lou and Bugsy could have sat together while Stinky sat in the cart's seat were all taken, presumably by other moms who were caught with their guard down on grocery day by an extra kid or two tagging along!  No big deal, though.  Little Lou and Bugsy are big enough to walk silently by the cart, neither one stepping out of line, nobody touching anything breakable, everybody being kind.  Angels!  In my dreams.  Reality looks a little more sloppy than that.

Yesterday, I made a promise to my kids, a premeditated promise, a hopeful promise, that if they behaved well at the grocery (PLEASE behave at the grocery!) I would reward them with a surprise!  (No, Bugsy, the surprise isn't a new puppy.  Sorry.  No, Little Lou, I will not tell you in advance what the surprise is, because I don't want to hear the screaming when if the prize isn't earned.  Yes, I promise that if you earn the surprise, you will get it as soon as we get the groceries unloaded!)

People, I was going to take a germy risk and feed my children cookies in the McDonald's PlayPlace!

Reality is sloppy.

Stinky sits in the cart at the grocery, no questions asked.  Little Lou and Bugsy have to walk.  (No, you cannot sit in the cart with the groceries!)  Everything goes great for the first 15 seconds and then the two older kids run in five different directions, each yelling that the other one is out of line.  Bugsy wants to see the fish.  (We won't have time for the surprise.)  Little Lou wants to look at the earrings. (WHY can't I get my ears pierced today?) Bugsy has to potty.  (I sent you to the bathroom right before we left the house!)  Bugs is touching everything.  Little Lou is sitting on the floor to check off the grocery list.  All, of course, at roughly twice the approved grocery store volume.  Mommy gets frustrated.  My children have NOT earned a surprise, and they know it.  

They tell me that they don't deserve it.

Then, they throw me the zinger.  Little Lou does.  She's a smarty, and she's getting wise to my "teachings."  She's paying attention at home and at church and sucking everything up like a sponge.  So, she looks at me with those big brown eyes and says, "Mommy, don't you think you could give us a little grace or mercy or something and give us the surprise anyway?"


My children have a LOT of chances to earn rewards.  There's a daily chance to earn a Squinkie.  There are opportunities to earn special treats and trips to Mamaw's and all sorts of other great things.  Sometimes they earn them, sometimes they don't.  Life's like that.  We have "good" days and we have "bad" days.  So, every time my kids don't earn a prize, my mom and my sister make comments like, "You know, sometimes it's okay to show them a little grace."  "You know, sometimes we all need a little mercy."  You know, things like that.

People, my kids get the grace and mercy talk a LOT.  If they didn't, Little Lou wouldn't have thought to throw that one at me!

So, this morning I was thinking about this "grace and mercy" thing.  Friends, my God is big and great and powerful and jealous and demanding.  He loves what is good and hates what is evil.  I am a human, people.  The thing about humans?  We're evil.  Don't you go trying to get out of that one.  We all are, unfortunately.  God has every reason to hate us, but somehow he finds the strength to love us. 

So, you see, the thing about us humans is that we have this wretched habit of messing up.  Maybe it's not the same thing every day or the same thing every time, but we mess up.  We sin.  We walk right away from God's plan, God's definition of right and wrong.  We have come to expect that God's going to forgive us and accept us.  And He WILL!  Every time we ask Him, as long as we ask with sincerity and really intend to make a change, He'll forgive us every. single. time.  He shows us grace and mercy a billion times over; He shows more grace and mercy than we will ever know!

I was thinking about that this morning, and debating with myself how I can justify, then, how I can ever say "no" to my kids when I've promised them a reward and they don't deserve it.  I mean, wouldn't God give them another chance?  Wouldn't he say, "Okay.  You've asked me to show you grace this one time.  Here you go."  Wouldn't He?

People, He would.  And then He wouldn't.  I believe that God will give us grace and mercy and forgiveness and chances right up all the way until the end, and then He won't.  I believe that if I'm 8 or 18 or 88 and I say, "God, I really screwed up!  I've been doing everything wrong.  I REALLY want your eternal prize, and I am going to live for you from now on.  Take over my life and make me whole," He will do just that!

But there will be a day when you reach the end, when I reach the end, and we'll each stand before God.  He'll look at each of us, He'll look at ME, and He'll remember my "day."  He'll look back and He'll recall where I've been and what I've done.  Have I run away and run away and run away?  Have I tried, really really tried, to follow His lead, or have I done my own thing and begged for forgiveness, begged for grace and mercy, when I really started to feel the "crunch?"  And God's going to make a decision, based on my decision.

There will come a day, a moment, when we all run out of time.  There'll be a day when what we've done and how we've walked will matter.  For eternity.  I don't believe God expects perfection; I believe He expects our very best.

In parenting, as in life, I believe it is my job to be as Christ-like as possible.  I believe that it's okay (even essential) that I show my kids a fair bit of grace and mercy.  But friends, I also believe that, when it comes down to it, at the end of the day, I have to teach my kids to be grown-ups--God-fearing, Christ-following, grace-giving grown-ups.  Sometimes, it is my job to look back on the day and say, "I'm sorry, kids, but you chose to take your own path today and not follow what I wanted for you.  Today, you do not earn your prize."


And sometimes, it's my job to look back on the day, to hear their humble pleas for forgiveness, their promises of future perfection, and take them to McDonald's even when they don't deserve it.


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